For the third consecutive day, protests against the rising number of rapes and acts of violence against women across the country continued on Wednesday, with major programs being organised at Shahbagh in the capital.
Similar protests were also reported from Dhanmondi, Uttara, Mirpur and other areas of Dhaka.
Student and socio-cultural organizations, rights groups, general students and common people protested in Bogra, Jessore, Narayanganj, Jamalpur, Pirojpur, Naogaon, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Netrakona, Jhenaidah, Tangail, Narail, Lakshmipur, Brahmanbaria, Chapainawabganj and Barisal.
At Shahbagh, the demonstrators, under the banner of “Save Our Women”, started gathering in front of the National Museum at around 10am on Wednesday.
Several leftist student organizations, carrying the banner “Bangladesh Against Rape,” began their protest program one and a half hours later in the same area, demanding justice for the victims of rape, sexual harassment and violence.
They also demanded the resignation of Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal for “failing” to prevent rapes across the country.
Kamal, they said, had made bizarre comments on rape which encouraged rapists.
Addressing a party program on September 29, the home minister, who is also an Awami League MP, said rape was not a social menace exclusive to Bangladesh as there was no country where such incidents did not happen.
Leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra Odhikar Parishad, led by Nurul Haque Nur, also staged a demonstration at Shahbagh.
As they began proceeding, carrying black flags, towards the Home Ministry demanding Kamal’s removal, police obstructed them at Gulistan Zero Point at around 1pm. Later, they took positions in the area.
Nur said: “If we can’t stop rapes right now by waging a mass movement, they will never stop. We’ll never be able to get rid of rapes.”
Waves of anti-rape demonstrations erupted across Bangladesh after a video footage of five men gang-raping a housewife, stripping her naked and filming the video of the incident in Noakhali’s Begumganj upazila, went viral on social media on Sunday.
The incident occurred at Joykrishnapur village under Eklashpur union of the upazila on September 2.
Another platform of different professionals and students called “Mass Stance Against Rapes” also raised its voice against the continuing rape incidents.
Shibly Hasan, the convener of the platform, said one or two programs could not prevent rape or violence against women.
“In order to prevent such incidents, the relevant law needs to be amended and everyone has to force the government to bring about the changes needed in the law,” he said, demanding that the death penalty be made the highest punishment for rapists.
Protests were also reported at Dhanmondi-27, near Dhaka College and Mirpur.
Meanwhile, students of different schools and colleges blocked roads in Uttara for the third day on Wednesday.
They took to the streets near BNS Centre at Uttara Sector 7 at 11am, blocking the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway an hour later. The blockade lasted for around two hours.
The protesters announced that they would resume their demonstration on Sunday if their demands, including making the death penalty the highest punishment for rape, were not met.
The BNP held a rally in front of the National Press Club. Speaking at the rally, the party’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged that the government was patronizing the rapists.
“The data of rapes over the past few months depict how severe the situation has been,” he said.
Alongside protests on the streets, netizens, especially women, have resorted to digital protests to raise their voice against sexual assault, harassment and torture of women.
The BNP will stage countrywide demonstrations on Thursday demanding justice for the rape victims.
Bangladesh Chhatra Odhikar Parishad will hold a mass rally at Shahbagh on Friday afternoon and then bring out a vigil.
Leaders and supporters of the platform, Mass Stance Against Rapes, will submit a memorandum to the Home Ministry on Sunday.
At least 975 women have been raped in the country over the nine months beginning in January, according to a recent report.
Of them, 762 were raped by an individual accused, while 208 women were gang-raped, according to data compiled by the human rights organization Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK).
Our correspondents Nazmul Huda Nasim, Bogra; Selim Reza, Benapole; Shamima Rita, Narayanganj; Bishwajit Deb, Jamalpur; Arif Mostafa, Pirojpur; Abdur Rouf Pavel, Naogaon; Taieyb Ali Sarkar, Nilphamari; Ariful Islam, Kurigram; Hanif Ullah Akash, Netrakona; Nayan Khandakar, Jhenaidah; Abdullah Al Numan, Tangail; Saiful Islam, Narail; Saiful Islam, Lakshmipur; Ujjal Chakraborty, Brahmanbaria; Anwar Hossain, Chapainawabganj, Anisur Rahman Swapan, Barisal contributed to this report.